Last year on Valentines Day, I decided to treat myself! Not because my hubby had forgotten but because what I wanted he couldn’t provide! I had finished my job on Friday and the first thing on the Monday morning I set up a business Facebook page and changed my LinkedIn profile to announce to the world that I was now up and running as a coach! I had trained for two years at Henley Business School and also previously run my own Management Development Business for 12 years so you’d think that it would be plain sailing, wouldn’t you? Well not in my experience!

Here are my top five lessons on growing my business over the past year.

The world of business and work has changed completely in the past 10 years.

Wow, little did I know how much had changed since I had previously run my own business. In that time technology had changed beyond recognition and now everyone was expected to have a website and a presence on social media. Corporate clients now have sophisticated buying processes and payment terms have become longer. All these have an impact on how you set up and your business and what you spend your time doing.

Invest in yourself.

Now that you are out there on your own, you need to learn all sorts of new things. If you don’t invest in yourself then no one else will. I have attended paid for and free seminars, webinars and conferences. I have invested in working with some amazing coaches who have challenged me and supported me when it got tough and kept me true to myself and my vision. You will also need to learn about all sorts of tech that once you’ve cracked it will make life simpler! You will also need to keep your professional skills sharp.

Recognise your limitations.

Be aware that whilst you can learn to do most things that some of it might not be in your sweet spot. I am not very aware of the things that I really enjoy doing and where I can great value and also the things that I can’t wait to outsource to someone who is more skilled in that area. My vision of my business includes these elements being completed by others as and when the time is right.

Get out and network.

This is so important for many reasons. If you are busy setting up your business, it is so easy to become isolated. I was so keen to get my brand established that I spent hours in front of my laptop and managed to put on over a stone in weight!

There are fantastic networks online where you can meet like-minded individuals who will become friends and supporters. These are great but sometimes you will also need to get out the house (or office!).

So also look for a couple of face-to-face networking groups that encourage you to get out of the house.  Not all of these will be right for you so just because you go to one that you don’t like don’t write networking off, try another one. There will be one that works for you. Go to build relationships, not to sell your business. People will buy from you when they need your products and if you have built the relationship correctly. Spend time getting to know the other people and their businesses. You might find opportunities for collaboration.

Your personal brand is as important as your business brand.

It doesn’t matter whether you work for yourself or for another organisation. Your personal brand is so important in today’s world. It might be that you’re going for a new role in the same company or interviewing at a different company everything from your application through to your clothes and body language says a lot about you and what you stand for.

The same is true for small business owners, you may work on your laptop in your pyjamas most days but that doesn’t mean that when you go out to network or meet customers you shouldn’t reflect your brand. There is no point spending money on a graphic designer preparing you a logo and a fabulous business card if you are not going to live up to the brand values.

All in all, it has been an amazing year. I have learnt and grown so much not just as a coach but as a businesswoman. If you’d like to read my about my story into coaching visit my about me page.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my 5 lessons and look forward to what year 2 brings!

 Suzanne